Courts, Rights and Pandemics
Welcome to the website of the THEMIS project!
Dr Patrycja Dąbrowska-Kłosińska, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, is the Principal Investigator on the project and she works under the mentorship of Professor Thérèse Murphy, Director of the Health & Human Rights Unit.
Information about THEMIS events and publications will be posted here, so stay tuned!
THEMIS asks: How do judges resolve the conflict between individual human rights and public healthmeasures in global pandemics? It is an interdisciplinary research project linking risk regulation, public health and the human rights field. It investigates and appraises decisions of EU and US courts in order to develop the first comparative map of judicial standards of review in this challenging area and more generally to better understand the role of law in the context of infectious disease outbreaks.
Ebola patients in Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone (2014)
Ebola, tuberculosis, HIV, SARS and Zika: fuelled by international mobility, risks of global pandemics are increasing. National and international public health actions and laws are one response to this, but they often treat health as a sharp security issue to contain the spread of pathogens: ‘war to fight diseases’. In this way, risk assessment of threats can easily become politicised and individual rights are assumed to be obstacles to population health. In effect, medical knowledge is often ignored, and law is used as a tool of fear and suppression instead of protection. As a result, potentially infected persons, patients and health workers become akin to terrorist suspects and their rights are/can be infringed. Possible violations concern the rights to life, personal integrity (eg, involuntary isolation), and respect for private and family life (eg, disclosure of medical details), as well as specific patients’ rights (eg, forced treatment).
THEMIS reacts to these facts. Through extensive research into EU/US judicial approaches to lawful human rights limitations, scientific evidence, risk, and environmental/social factors, it will contribute to better understanding of how to prepare for, and respond to, the risks of global pandemics through the lens of a rights-based approach. To do this, it employs the pioneering ‘risk within rights’ framework (Murphy & Whitty) to avoid the standard framing, which presents risk to public health in opposition to human rights. It also utilizes a ‘Lawyers meet Doctors’ dissemination concept, facilitating inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral impact and bridging audiences from diverse fields and sectors who usually work separately via two international workshops involving both academics and policy-experts as well as publications and presentations.
The significance of THEMIS is becoming even clearer as we try to face the global pandemic of coronavirus disease Covid-19, which started in December 2019. This pandemic is a particularly challenging, and until-now, unimagined example of the scale of public health control measures and related human-rights implications world-wide. It shows, in a cruel way, the importance of the human-rights based approach to pandemic control as essential to ensure non-discrimination, lawful and proportionate limitation of individual and collective rights, and the transparency of the scientific evidence behind the actions of public authorities.
THEMIS aims to produce knowledge that will offer a vital reference for policy-making that prioritises fair pandemic preparedness to cross border health threats. In so doing it aspires to fill the scholarly and societal knowledge gap with respect to a current global challenge in line with the EU Health Strategies and the EU Third Health Programme (2014-2020).
- THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN INFECTIOUS DISEASE CONTROL: LESSONS FOR GLOBAL HEALTH GOVERNANCE FROM A COMPARISON OF NATIONAL JUDICIAL PRACTICE – Joint Symposium of the Health and Human Rights Unit, School of Law & Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, 12-13 November 2020 (On-line).
Programme available here
- “SCIENCE AS RISK” IN INDIVIDUAL DECISION-MAKING ON VACCINATION: THE RIGHT TO REFUSE, THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE AND THE DUTY TO PROTECT? – Joint Workshop of the Health and Human Rights Unit, School of Law & Centre for the Study of Risk and Inequality, Queen’s University Belfast, 18 June 2019.
Programme available here.
- THEMIS Spring 2020 Newsletter. [ to follow ]
- THEMIS Summer-Autumn 2019 Newsletter.[ to follow ]
- THEMIS Spring 2019 Newsletter
- “Introducing THEMIS Research”. Presentation, School of Law Research Afternoon, 8 November 2018.
- November 2019: “Vaccines: Children’s Right to Health”. Meeting at the Rosetta Primary School co-organised with ESRC NI Social Science Festival. More details available here.
- April 2019: "Konkurs na Plakat - Poster Contest". Collaboration with Polish Saturday School in Belfast. More details available here.
|This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 746014.|
Themis Logo by Agnese Waligora, Teramo, Italy